Poetry: Omnidawn 2013 1st/2nd Book Prize Finalists

This month we feature new work from the five finalists for the 2013 Omnidawn 1st/2nd Book Contest:

Julia Drescher — Plural Bell
Daniel Poppick — The Police
Margaret Ross — A Day in Space and Another Day
Steven Toussaint — The Bellfounder
Caroline Young — catastrophiliac

from V | HARD ISLAND (#8)

Julia Drescher

                               to stand in island
thrashing the blameless grass

crowding out-text, fits,
its margins w/ mourning,

brother to jackals sound
in the vein of her mouth,

heretic, a broke down mound
all salt, all ill and

opened by what fills it


JMDJulia Drescher lives in Colorado Springs where she co-edits Further Other Book Works with C.J. Martin. Her poems have most recently appeared in Dusie, AufgabeLikestarlings (with Michelle Detorie) & in the *belladonna chaplets series. An essay on Jack Spicer was published as a chapbook with New Lights Press. Other essays may be viewed at tonytobecasual.tumblr.com.


Daniel Poppick

Read the sun and one ceases
To be an impossible logarithm
Its sound throws a book of fables
That cuts me just above the eye

In a tomb decorated
For the god of handwriting
A grid in which I never say

The same word twice but infiltrate
A traffic’s thrum just as
Your face blurts through the pillow.
Gold is a word

Issuing from the mouth
Of a video game, warm and legible
By night come morning

Brushing a margin’s teeth. I
Tie holograms to rafters
So when the thread
Waves the draft’s

Source can be detected
As when Puritans
Made branches screech with frost.

It is early in the century
Light bulbs linger
From the nuclear age but
Glass coils replace them night

By night. I have not
Learned to love police
But deeply do the law

For its wattage may be used
To find the force’s
Lunar doppelgänger.
A current runs below the trees

A radio wave stalks it, lighting off
The limbs, dark bird reading
Lists of Latin names as if

It were the news
And though those nouns escape
Me as you sharpen
I have faith they will return.

When snow does fall
One becomes an extension of its
Synapse, pink fiberglass and chimney

Yielding a legacy of fumes
Holding the sky in a graph of hours
Rigid with points
Made to order, meadow in which

a) Mail sprouts folded from the trees plus
b) The penmanship with which
They are addressed distinguishes

The hand that wrote them from
A sweepstakes but
c) Contains a history, is one day
Bolting itself to shadow

Requiring a hired agent that
d) Flutters in its wrapping paper
Like the winged insect.

Sun remains the nail
It flies to, hammering on mirror
Neurons, reel of children
Running through me. Children are

Exceptionally cruel but you know
What else is money? Mercury.
Flesh to flesh we

Are string tied to digits air
Uses to run its calculator
Before it pays its taxes
Which judging by my neck’s crick

Means today’s my birthday.
I age quickly as rainwater ruins
A piano over the earth, the keys

Tighten all architecture
Between two poles, their friendship with
The dead is famous. Songs
Escape me every April and the press

Takes note, they bear six sides
And watch in silence as ferns
Breach my skull, and when

I tag my tears ASTRONOMY
Mark it on an abacus to prove
Come January
We are the coast of technology.


Poppick author photo 2014Daniel Poppick’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Volta, BOMB, The Iowa Review, Colorado ReviewThe Claudius App, and other journals. He lives and works in Iowa City, where he co-publishes The Catenary Press with Rob Schlegel and curates The Antibody Series. A chapbook, Vox Squad, was published this year by Petri Press.


Margaret Ross

What things are vapor? Not the air. The
            nightstand and the buckled
            mattress, not the sheet. I take

my time. Brass knob
            my wrist must turn to leave, its tendons
            torqued stems to the long

bouquet unfolding livid colors out there on the other
            side, the future “what you
            could have done, you could have

gone and seen” when you have not left, have
            yet to leave. Someone tell me
            why “an unassuming aspect of

the gas that afterwards we came to
            realize was.” This
            life, how to put it down

past the sprayed-on yellow
            edge like a lit streak under the door beyond
            which people carry on

dropped voices. Here
            in whose studio. I always wake before. Don’t stir. Dim silver
            bough the length of me is kindred to me, sprawled across

cool air outside, my best
            friend. The window’s fogged yes everything does have to be seen
            through again again again
again I run my finger down to

make a clear strip, hypodermic. Some days
            plucked from extinction by a sharp detail. A bird
            in the hall I didn’t try to help, what things are

for. The sheer
            green skirt I lost, I left
            a mark, faint whiff of sulfur so the aether caught, a man had

half an earlobe gone, his torso broad and blank as a door and ticking
            on the other side I held my hand up to the door to test
            and the door was hot. I was just going

to say. Quiet. Is it Nobody there? Tell me
            how many flights we are
            above the world. Can’t you

force me so then I could be forced
            to admit invulnerable live bounds, no threshold to
            cross. Not the voice. The floorboards and the ribbon wire. The

sky stale white of a corrective
            brace for the street’s evacuated
            spine, it seems to me I’ve already gone

a long time. Did I ask to go

            I lay down in an olive grove because
            the grass was gold and nobody there and some

            with a blue rope tied about their girth
            width of a girl’s thigh for what

            reason I don’t know. My long hair
            was a net unraveled

If the thought evaporates. If the
            thought there isn’t any room for
            when a day slides off and the hissing trees, touch always pulls me

back up to the skin, hand
            the fish know, vague through the scrim
            of the pond and mindless as they are. Slim light

daggers about. Put your head down. Do you
            recognize yourself? I was trying to get to
            the other side of love. I had no way to go. I was standing

on a platform riddled with black holes, stamped-flat
            ancient gum somebody’s mouth had worked the pink from.
            P.A. told how far things were away. Put my face down, back

against slick milky tiles sealing off the end. I was standing barefoot on dank air
            between the railing and a drying sweater. I was standing several
            inches higher than myself pitched on blue neon plastic

heels. Glass necks glittered down at me from marble shelves. I was standing
            still. I was. Is that what I believe? I was on something I long lay fingering
            the tall coarse reedy shore. It felt like candor. His throat clicks. Nobody

move. Firm limit to your will you’ll never meet who were
            for them such slender interruption of the atmosphere
            I watched the sash I wanted to be

held down so there could be no
            brute space left to
            breathe, why didn’t you

look, why didn’t you look up and
            seem, had you no pride
            weren’t you free?

This poem originally appeared in The Iowa Review.


MargBioPicbyHRMargaret Ross’s poems can be found in Boston Review, The Claudius App, Company, Fence, jubilat and The New Yorker. Her chapbook, Decay Constant, is published by Catenary Press. She is currently a Fulbright Fellow in Nanjing.  

The Work

Steven Toussaint

that we may do            in words

            as she doth in as many years

dissolve            ascending

by the dry way

            in a flask

    in a sand bath

                                    by the wet way

                        in a water bath, descend


self-fed             glass


                        in cold hands


                        in phials

in circulating vessels

            pelicans and double pelicans

            Newtonian ova rinsed in the metaline depths


earthenware box          made only of earth

            wherein atoms urge, fizz

              bevel    fulge  into light

ash couples      in surf

            the sea            a-box-containing-other-boxes

sand bathes

the muffled ferns


Toussaint Author PhotoSteven Toussaint grew up in Chicago and currently lives in New Zealand, where he is researching the intersections between poetic and musical form. His writing has recently appeared in MinaretsThe Cultural Society, The Winter Anthology, and LVNG. His first chapbook, Fiddlehead, was published in March by Compound Press.

Wind Damage II

Caroline Young

wind (wind)  a resistance to central gravity

                                                A wakening

                                                weakens its grip
                                                estranges remains.


                                                This burial ground I have been waiting upon.

wind (wahynd) to wrap to coil around a center once or repeatedly

                                                The wind shields
                                                our lifeless style

                                                of contact:   your body
                                                repressed against mine

                                                entwine, lips lock
                                                who never mouth goodbye

                                                my love use caught
                                                in your teeth.

wound (woond)   strewn with a fist or kiss

                                                film on the moon’s eye

                                                blurred by weather
                                                or won’t you return

                                                too late
                                                I burn my only photograph.

wound (waund)   diminishment, a gradual fade in density

                                                Three sheets into two
                                                the wind, minus you,

                                                died down. I,
                                                wound under
                                                wind, to

                                                unwound; you—

                                                across town settled with the actress.


OCaroline lives on the other side of the river in Athens, Georgia.  She spends as much time as possible in the woods with dog pals, Lillian Bean and Lady Maple.  She just gave her hair up for lent.